People and Dancefloors Podcast Season 2 Episode 5

In conversation with Juan Fernandez Ochoa

Juan is an inspiring human being. He is currently Campaigns and Communications Officer at IDPC (International Drug Policy Consortium). He leads on the development of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign. He also worked as Policy Officer at the Beckley Foundation. He was also involved at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) and DrugScience (formerly known as ISCD). He holds a double Masters degree in European Studies from the London School of Economics and Sciences Po.

In the podcast, we talk about Juan’s trajectory into the drug policy reform space. Juan’s experiences of being born in Venezuela, going via France and the UK as a student have contributed to a critical understanding of drug policy as a global problem and as a problem of (in)justice. 

Juan is a fountain of knowledge and hope about the many drug policy reform and advocacy initiatives being pioneered in the global south, including Echele Cabeza, Renfa, IDUCARE and SANPUD, just to name a few. We discuss the legacy of colonialism and imperialism in both constructing the framework of international drug control and continuing to give primacy to research and modes of reform originating in the global north. 

Juan notes a main concern is issue compartmentalisation in drug policy reform; these “issue silos” essentially prevent our ability to understand problems of injustice as connected to systems of oppression, while enabling hierarchical orderings of drugs and their users. This leads nicely onto Abolitionist Futures, which Juan has been involved with. Juan is so good at clarifying the many misconceptions that exist around the idea of abolition, and what prevents meaningful discussions about abolitionism in the UK. 

We are all invited to join the Abolitionist Futures reading group to learn more. 

It was so heart-warming to engage with a true utopian vision as Juan’s, whose thoughtful reminder that all our positions are ideological (even the position of those who have naturalised the police, prisons, and commercial interest and profit over and above people’s health and wellbeing) reignited my own revolutionary fantasies.

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